The question of who will advance to the next round of the FIFA World Cup from Group G will be answered as all four teams take the field Thursday, the final day of group play. Portugal spoiled the USA’s chance to advance to the next round Sunday, scoring an equalizer off of a Cristiano Ronaldo pass in the 5th minute of stoppage time. The goal was the latest goal ever scored in a World Cup game.
To advance to the next round, the United States needs a win or a draw with Germany. Germany would advance with the draw and a win also. However, in the case of a Germany win, there is a chance that the US will not move on. However, it would come down to goal differential. In the case of goal differential, American fans would want to see Portugal defeat the Ghana Black Stars. Portugal lost to Germany in the first round of group play 0-4 and would need to score the most goals to pass the Americans. The Black Stars would also need a decent output of goals in the final game to move on, however not as many as Portugal needs. With the chances still open for any of the Group G teams to advance, most scenarios still favor both the United States and Germany to advance out of the group.
For Portugal, the chance to beat Ghana should improve for Thursday’s game. Defender Pepe will be back from a one game suspension after earning a red card during the Germany game. The Portuguese will need Pepe to help defend both Jordan and Andre Ayew. Andre Ayew may be the biggest threat to the Portuguese as the Black Stars leading goal scorer. The elder Ayew brother has a single goal in each of the first two World Cup games, however, Jordan Ayew must be considered by Portugal as a dangerous threat also. The younger Ayew brother added a hat trick against the South Korean team in the last friendly for the Black Stars days before heading to Brazil. A potential positive for Portugal is the status of Ronaldo. While the superstar did not score a goal against Germany or the United States, in the draw with the Americans, Ronaldo displayed some masterful ball handling, although did still appear shaky at times. It was not until the last second of stoppage time that the current top player in the world hurt the USA with a perfect pass to Silvestre Varela to keep Portugal alive in the tournament. However, the Black Stars are a very physical team and could cause problems for Ronaldo, who appears to still be suffering from recurring left leg and knee issues.
Word on if American forward Jozy Altidore will be available for the game against Germany may not be announced until game day. A banged up Clint Dempsey was moved into more of a striker position against Portugal and soon after scoring the apparent game winner for the Americans, limped off of the field to be replaced by Chris Wondolowski. After a broken nose against the Black Stars and the physical play against Portugal, the US captain will need to step up his play in the Germany game if Altidore’s hamstring injury keeps the forward off of the pitch Thursday. The Black Stars draw with Germany may give the American squad some hope that the German machine is beatable.
Trying to figure out who will advance out of Group G can cause quite a headache. The numerous possibilities, goal differential numbers, and scenarios will go one over the next few days until all four teams take to the pitches for the final games Thursday. However, this World Cup has taught one very important lesson. Anything can happen at the FIFA World Cup. Thursday can not come soon enough.
Commentary by Carl Auer